Dark (Angel) Conspiracies

My painting continues apace, as I have said before.  I finished two very basic Ravenwing squads, and a Deathwing assault squad.  Now, I have time to have some fun with painting – I’m going to have a crack at the Deathwing standard bearer and Apothecary that I assembled.  I also bought the bits for a Ravenwing Apothecary, but more Ravenwing can wait until I finish with the Deathwing and a new dreadnought.

My chosen chapter of Space Marines is the Dark Angel chapter, and part of their appeal is the mystery and ambiguous character of their background.  Whereas my friends prefer to play chapters such as the Salamanders (known for their protection of the innocent), I enjoy a little bit of mystery.

The “secret” shame of the Dark Angels is well-known to most 40K players.  It has been documented in several versions of their codex, and been mentioned in novels and short stories.  However, there are still several ideas and theories about the Fallen which surface from time to time.  I’ll mention three of them here:

1)      The Fallen are the “good guys.”  The argument has been made that Lion El’Jonson wanted to sit out the Horus Heresy and simply swear victory to the winner.  Most of the support for this idea comes from the book Angels of Darkness.  It certainly appeared to be a strong possibility, as very little had been written about the Dark  Angels’ activities during the Horus Heresy, but recent novels have started to explore their deeds.  In any case, in this theory, the Fallen are loyalists who fired upon the traitorous Lion El’Jonson when he returned to Caliban, thus provoking the Lion to fight them.

Does this theory hold any water?  Well, it is a possibility.  Consider that even if the marines of the Dark Angels were not involved in any command decisions to not get involved in the Horus Heresy, they have been hunting the Fallen for 10,000 years, rather than acting as regular marines and defending the Imperium.  If the Fallen were innocent, that wouldn’t exactly reflect well upon the character of the Dark Angels.

2)      The Fallen are loyalists who made a mistake.  This theory states that the Fallen may indeed be loyalists who fired on the returning Dark Angels in error.  In the book Fallen Angels, Lion El’Jonson makes the choice to deny Horus access to siege equipment rather than to oppose Horus directly on the field of battle.  Unfortunately, the Dark Angels secure the siege engines and turn them over to another legion, not knowing that they have give the siege weapons to one of the Primarchs who secretly swore fealty to Horus.  Outside of Lion El’Jonson’s small strike force, it could certainly appear that the Lion seized the weapons and handed them over to Horus.  Naturally, the loyalists left on Caliban would assume that the other Dark Angels had sided with Horus, and they would open fire on the returning fleet.

This theory is definite possibility.  However, it does not take into consideration any of the activities on Caliban, as they have not been described in the novels in any detail.  The Dark  Angels on Caliban pretty much decided that Imperial rule was harmful for the world.  Luther is dabbling in forbidden lore – but so have countless Inquisitors, so that means nothing on its own.  He may eventually be corrupted by this research, but that is beyond the scope of existing novels.

3)      Cypher is a tool of the Inner Circle.  The novels also shed some light on the character known as Cypher.  It turns out that “Cypher” is actually a name for an official position within the Order.  When one becomes Lord Cypher, one drops all previous names.  In other words, he is appointed, and can be replaced.

Consider: what if the Dark Angels decided that they would divide the legion into chapters, as decreed by the edicts of the Lords of Terra, but they wanted to still be able to act together.  If they could appoint a new “Lord Cypher,” with all of the trappings that he was supposed to have, then they could have this new Cypher pop up wherever they wished to target an area, leak his location to all other Unforgiven chapters, and hit the target marked by Cypher’s presence.  It would also explain Cypher’s continuous escapes and reemergence.  After all, if Cypher is slain or captured, it is no difficult feat to either let him go or to appoint a new Cypher.

As far-fetched as this idea seems, it is a strong possibility based on the Black Library book The 13th Black Crusade.  Cypher appears wherever there are cults and/or unrest, and the Unforgiven pursue him with a vengeance.  Countless cults and resistance cells are crushed in this campaign, and Cypher is ultimately captured, yet vanishes from his cell on the Rock.  It all seems a little too convenient.

In addition to these theories, there is, of course, the possibility that Cypher and the Fallen are just what the codex and stories purport them to be – Dark Angels who fell to Chaos.  Personally, I find this unlikely.  I’ve read more than a few strong hints that elements of the Inquisition are aware of the Fallen and the Dark Angels’ pursuit of them.  Almost certainly, if the Inquisition knew about the defection of a large number of Dark Angels to the side of Chaos (even 10 millennia ago), the Unforgiven would have been censured and declared traitors long ago.   Something else is at work, here.

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